ST. PAUL.

By DAVID SWI G

THE immense amount of attention given, within recent years, to the relation of Paul to Christianity, warrants us in drawing some inferences regarding that prominent character, at least justifies us in making him a theme of brief remark. It will be years yet before the position of St. Paul can be fully defined, and for this closing up of accounts none of us can afford to wait. It is the pi'ivilege of each year to gather up the approximations of truth that appear within its own bounds, and, pending the final decision, to derive what cheer or help it may from the evidence rendered up to the passing hour. As in the trial of some great personage the public does not await in solemn silence the closing of the case and the decision of the court, but irresistibly follows each witness and weighs the testimony each hour, so, in the progress of moral inquiry, one cannot sit down and wait for the end, but, by the mind's nature, is

220 ST. PAUL.

led along through a series of weights and measurements in succeeding days. There is no provision made in the mind for perfect repose. It is commanded us by nature to go on. Like the Wandering Jew, in the fable, we must march, march, march! But the following obligation should be confessed, namely, that the newer the inquiry, the greater the number of facts not yet brought in, the greater should be the modesty and charity of the wondering crowd,

hoping, longing, fearing, as they stand around the witnesses and the box of the accused. Before the vast inquiries now opening up like a river that approaches the sea — inquiries rising under the name of Darwin or Huxley, one need not sit down in silence, but may only proceed with the charity and humility of children diffident in their helpless youth. If all inferences must cease until inquiries are wholly ended, life is reduced to a sleep that needs waking only once in a hundred years. In all the present inquiry about St. Paul, there is no vital idea involved. Hence, nothing is to be feared, even if not much were to be hoped. How far he differed from the other apostles, how far he was designed of God to give shape and tone to the church, how far he has done so, what were his views, what his genius, how far his teachings were local, how far universal — are

ST. PAUL. 221

inquiries that involve no calamity, and hence need produce no passion, no trembling among Christians, nor boastings among infidel hearts. The inquiry promises good to the church far more than it forebodes any evil. Paul seems a power only half-weighed, half-prized in the past. The new attention of the present seems to be the return of the Christian mind to a better estimate of its own outfit and resources. An age afar off may better read a man or a system than an age that was near, because it may bring to the task a more congenial mind and heart. That the church has reached a point eighteen centuries away from St. Paul is- no proof that it ever exhausted, or even fully studied, the details of the doctrine, or spirit of the

apostle. It often happens that a thousand years come between an event and any careful study of the event. Men are diverted by some new issue, and then by some other issue, and for hundreds of years make no sign of return to any objects that stood by their starting point. Thus Aristotle unfolded the inductive philosophy; but men turned away from it, and never came near it again until in the far-off days of Lord Bacon. Astronomy flourished in old Egypt, and was quite complete and truthful; but the public mind deserted it, and returned not until in modern periods. Thus men are always making

222 ST. PAUL.

long and great wanderings, and great and beautiful returns. In Mexico and South America, there are old mines of silver and gold, where, hundreds of years ago, shafts were sunk and furnaces were busy separating the metal from. dust. But upspringing war, or decay of industry, or growth of vice, drew away the toilers, and left the mines to the silence of those many years. ow, the new status assumed by the nineteenth century sends men back to the mines, and new shafts are sunk, and new furnaces blaze in the long-deserted valleys of the precious ores. In religion, the ages desert rich veins, and, after decay has hung for centuries about -the old shafts, back come their remote children, and, with double energy and intelligence, make the gold and silver distil from the old earth. They return with better science, and secure a richer yield. The early tendency of the church toward temporal power, drew away from the spirituality of Christ and from the broad republicanism of St. Paul. The

fact that Peter was represented as having the keys, and being the rock upon which the church was founded, drew the attention of the early half-barbarous church toward that one apostie, and for fifteen hundred years Peter was the ideal genius of the Christian establishment. ot the absolute Peter of

ST. PAUL. 223

the Testament, but the idealized Peter of Romanism — Peter with human embellishment, Peter transformed into a colossus. One can perceive this transformation and enthronement of this apostle, not only in the fact that he was made pope and was followed by a regular succession, but even in the sculpture and painting of the middle ages in which arts Peter always enjoyed the richest colors and robes, and the whitest blocks of marble. Moses, David, Peter, were the favorites of the artists. Innocently, and even unconsciously, St. Paul was left under a cloud. He was so world-wide, so separated from forms and from localities, that, to the half-civilized ages he was almost invisible, while Peter with keys in his hand and with the suspicion of being a rock upon which a church could be built for the keys to lock and unlock, becaine very visible indeed. That which men wish to see is always the most visible. With the ideas that Paul held, that forms were of little value, that neither circumcision nor uncircumcision availed, that neither meat or no meat, holy days or no holy days, contained any merit, that nothing was of any value except the new creature, the new soul within, it was impossible for him to rise into first notice and first love in an age to which forms had been the dearest and best thing. The

224 ST. PAUL.

world was oligarchic, despotic, aristocratic, in all its education and hopes. Empire was its largest idea. Peter, supposed to be a rock of government, and supposed to possess keys, was, therefore, worth a thousand times more than St. Paul, who was an exponent of man universal, and of a religion of only the heart. Peter stood for empire, Paul for the soul. Such an age did not, and would not, calmly weigh the two ideas, the Paul and Peter, and declare Peter to suit and delight it the more. It would simply grasp Peter by its instinct. It would not deliberately reject Paul. It would never dream of his being anything valuable. When Indians select colored beads and ribbons from white explorers, they do not condemn the books, the laws, the schools of the white race. They do nothing and think nothing on the subject. They grasp by instinct, and lay hold upon gaudy colors and objects of sense. So the early church did not rationally condemn Paul; it reached out its arms by instinct and grasped the man that possessed the keys of power. The act was that of a child, not that of a philosopher. Accustomed to an empire, it grasped for a sword as did the infant Achilles. In this unconscious neglect, Christ Himself suffered, not a little, along with his apostle. It was, of course,

ST. PAUL. 225

impossible for any age wholly to overlook Christ. Paul was one of twelve, and could be escaped; but Christ was one of one. He was alone. But what was denied the age in the power to ignore, it atoned for in the power to interpret badly. Compelled to see Christ, it interpreted Him by its own instinct, and made of Him a regal prince anxious to grind to powder many enemies, and to exalt a few friends. The monarchic instinct that doomed Paul to obscurity, doomed the Christ to the similitude of a rude King, rather than clothed Him with the beauty of a Savior. And thus the great cloud, composed of keys of empire, of material things, of forms, of thrones, of princes and slaves, of pomp and circumstance, threw its shadow far down the valley of human life, even down to the Pilgrims and Puritans. Paul and his Master, belonging to a new era, to one of spirituality and human equality, it was necessary for them both to lie in partial shadow until their new era should come. If there was an instinct that could grasp the literal keys and local empire, so there would be an instinct that would grasp a new life and a kingdom of man universal. Paul, along with his Savior, must wait for this. Fitted for a spiritual life, they must stand still until the pageant of Peter had passed by. Another great shadow followed the church. It was that of the Mosaic age. Moses and David were grand 15

226 ST. PAUL.

monarchs. Their brilliant power and severe institutions have haunted the Christian era in all its long

career. otwithstanding the sermons of Christ, and the terrible eloquence of St. Paul about the dissolution of the Mosaic economy, the empire of the Hebrew state was so deeply in harmony with the taste of bishops and popes, that the laws of Moses carried away the study and love that belonged to the Sermon on the Mount, and the new truths of the Pauline letters. The Mosaic age died slowly. As by long paths ages come, by long paths they depart. This shadow of Hebrew power followed the church, not only up to the reformation of Luther, but up to the Pilgrim Fathers, who still wished to seize upon some country as Moses had seized upon Palestine, and to banish Quakers and Huguenots, as Moses had silenced the Philistines and Amorites. The fact that the Westminster Assembly passed its laws as to what is required and what forbidden in the Ten Commandments, and neglected to inquire what is enjoined and what forbidden in the Sermon on the Moimt, shows that the empire of Moses was still intruding itself upon the presence of Christ, It is not to be wondered at that in all these long centuries the more spiritual and liberal ideas of St. Paul lay in the oblivion of neglect. Full of universal love, reckless of geographical lines, hostile to the out-

8T. PAUL. 227

ward, devoted to the new life, wholly separate from earthly power and kings, living beyond Moses as maniiood outranks infancy, and rapt in the vision of Jesus Christ, Paul was compelled to wait until the rise of liberty should destroy alike the scepter of Moses and the scepter of the pope. He waited the time to lead mankind to a religion of the spirit, and to the Sermon on the mountain side.

Luther unveiled the image of Paul. That hand lifted some of the heaviest drapery. A thousand material things were consumed by his touch, and the faith of the soul in Jesus Christ became brilliantly visible. Lutlier thundered against penance and works just as Paul thundered against the outward forms of the Jews; and against popes and states just as Paul had declaimed against an earthly Jerusalem and the caste of the Hebrews. Luther was one of the first flowers of the seed sown by the Saint. Then followed the wide German and English efflorescence. In such mortals as John "Wesley and Whitefield and Dufi", and almost the whole school of those men, the soul of Paul beams forth — a sun that had been long clouded. They are all the abandonment of the papal idea, and are the escape from the shadow of the Mosaic age. They are a reproduction of Christ; an acceptance of the church of Jesus and Paul.

228 ST. PAUL.

Paul's ideas, those of democracy, of spirituality, instead of ceremony, of attachment to Jesus Christ, were too great for the first fifteen centuries. They must needs lead a semi-life until the spread of intelligence and republicanism should help abolish rites, and place all men upon one level, not only before God, but, what is more difficult, before men. An age will never accept anything at discord with itself. An aristocratic State will demand aristocratic religion, schools and amusements. An ignorant, superstitious country will ^require a superstitious literature and religion. The stories they tell their children will be about ghosts and wonders. As an iron magnet will gather up nothing but the dust of itself, will lift nothing but

kindred iron, so an age will lay hold of no idea out of harmony with its heart. ilonarchy grasped Moses and St. Peter, and let fall all else. TJnivei-sal liberty reaches out for its own children and draws to its bosom Christ and his large -souled apostle. The development that has plucked iron crowns from the foreheads of kings has plucked them from the foreheads of priests, and has given us not only a people's government, but a people's Savior. But for Paul, it is thought by many students of history that Judaism would have carried its circumcision and seclusiveness and awftd despotism right

ST. PAUL. 229

forward for perhaps a thousand years. It would have wound the thorns of the State laws around the body of Christ, a wreath of pain and despair around a symbol of hope. The revolt of St. Paul weakened the old dispensation, and led John and the subsequent Christians into the beginnings of a new career. Paul's steady light abates the Mosaic shadow. All history, profane and sacred, contains proofs that God embodies His truth in some human heart, buries it there and commands it to blossom as fast as men give it sunshine enough, and only so fast. In the bosom of Moses there lay ideas beyond his people. They laughed them and him to scorn. But in a few centuries the Hebrew commonwealth grew grand all over with the outgrowth of Mosaic truths. ot grand compared with a modem ideal, but compared with what was and had been. In the outset Moses was too great for his people. In the end the people had caught up with their leader. o phenomenon is more

frequent. In St. Paul was buried the gospel of spirituality, of humanity, of a pure heart, and of Jesus Christ. The first idea of spirituality sounded the death knell of forms. Circumcision or uncircumcision would avail naught, but the "new creature." The second idea, "all humanity," abolished popes

230 ST. PAUL.

and powers, fagots and proscription, the exaltation of the creed of Apollos or Cephas, and raised a slave to the rank of a son of God. The third idea of a pure life announced the end of salvation by means of a complex machinery of doctrine and the dawn of a new era of honesty and piety. The fourth idea, Jesus Christ, yesterday, to-day and forever, cast Christianity into the form of a personal friendship and love for the Divine Savior. For Paul to live was Christ, — to die, gain, because death sent him to Christ. The world resolved itself into the presence of the Savior. In Paul's bosom, more than in any other human heart, were planted these ideas — four rivers in the paradise of religion. As when Moses came down from, the mount his face was radiant with a light not visible to those around him, but streaming off to beat upon shores five hundred years away, as Galileo and Bacon spoke words that were unheard by those nearest, but were borne by some strange reverberation to a multitude afar off, so Paul, more divinely, carried

in his bosom truth-germs destined to blossom far away from the tomb of his dust. Perhaps these seeds are now disturbing the soil of this century. Think of these great ideas. Spirituality! This is nothing else than a divineness of soul, a rising above

ST. PAUL. 231

things material, gold and lands and raiment, and living for tlie sonl in its relations to time and eternity. God is called a spirit because there are characteristics in all material things which separate them from perfection. The word spirit is the ideal for the everlasting. It is an embodiment of love, and of thought, and of truth, and of life, and hence is felt to be immortal. The spiritual man is hence a soul not wedded to dust, but to truth, love and life. To be spiritually minded is life. In Paul's grand religion rites availed nothing. Circumcision, baptism, set days, sects of Paul and ApoUos, were all of no moment compared with that spiritual cast of the soul, able, like angels' wings, to bear man to immortality. Look at his second idea. The oneness of humanity ! Oh sublime sentiment ! Had Catharine de Medici known it, she would have clasped the Huguenots to her bosom and said, "I love you all." Had Calvin felt its infinite tenderness, he would have thrown his arms about Servetus and said, "Live and be happy, my brother. I differ with you, but love you." But this idea must await the birth of democracy. Look at Paul's third idea. A new life, a new creature ! It will be the development of this idea that

232 ST. PAUL.

will announce the dawn of a perfect civilization and a golden age. The church has tried the religion of dogmas. The Scotch churches reached a creed of thousands of articles, but that church, and all branches of all churches, have furnished thousands of men for every branch of dishonesty and crime. The men that commit acts of crime and dishonor, the men who commit frauds in the money circles, come, in part, from the multitiide that carry a Catechism or a Book of Common Prayer. All this because religion has been a form of argument rather than a shape of the inner life. Oh blessed age will that be when a holy life shall be the aim and significance of religion, and when it shall be universally confessed that unless one has the spirit of Christ he is none of His. But, passing all these, look at Paul's fourth passion. Love for Jesus Christ! I shall say little here because the measurement of words fail. In sounding the sea, places were found where the lead failed, and for hours the vessel would sail with the sounding line coiled on its bow, there being no use for it in the awful silence beneath. Paul's attachment to Jesus Christ is beyond our cold, feeble measurement. For him to live was Christ. To die was gain, for the

ST. PAUL. 233

soul joined its Friend. As cliildren live for the happiness that spring and summer and winter promise to their glad hearts ; as they long for the morning because of the new pleasure it will bring ; as for them to live is pleasure; as Pitt and Burke and Webster lived for country, and honor, and human law; as for them to live was fame and greatness, so for Paul to live was Jesus Christ. He slept and awoke in that sacred prepossession. To die would be gain, because the great golden cloud that enveloped him did not belong to earth, but was only the outskirt of a radiance that threw its sheen forward from the vast sea of endless life. My dear friends, measure these four ideas of Paul, and behold in them the coming glory of Christianity and the coming blessedness of man. Liberty and intelligence are the conditions of society that are able to accept of these four ideas of religion. And as liberty and intelligence are gradually advancing, so these essentials of Christianity are rising more and more upon the soul's horizon. Science cannot injure them. The welfare of society will make men always return to them. They will always prove too useful to be destroyed, too truthful to be .denied, too comforting in life and in death to remain unloved.

1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books

2. ALL WRITI GS http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=1000

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful